Reader Request: How to Wear Vests

How to wear a vest stylishly

Shannon popped this guy into the suggestion box:

I’d love a tutorial on wearing classy vests. I have a very menswear style vest in my closet that I love, but have no idea how to wear it. White button-down shirts look awful on me for a number of reasons and would look too “suit-like” besides. Any ideas?

I’ve got a couple of menswear-ish vests myself, but they don’t come out to play often because, like Shannon, I find them a bit tough to style. In fact, I’ve drawn upon looks from my fellow bloggers to illustrate some successful vest ensembles!

Here Lisa from Solo Lisa combines her menswear vest with a plaid shirt and full-length pants. Although Shannon said that white button-downs don’t work for her, I’m throwing this option into the pot regardless: Vests look so natural with button-downs, and patterned shirts are a great alternative to whites. Here, Lisa has gone for all-out on androgyny,with slim slacks and oxfords to complete her look.

If you decide to try this one out for yourself, do as Lisa has and include some fun embellishments like a brooch, bracelet, or necklace. Or, on the flip side, go a little bit slouchy and totally tomboy.

Lisa’s final outfit shows a version of the previous with some great tweaks. She has swapped in cuffed jeans for her slacks, and low heels for the oxfords. She’s also added that adorable brooch at her collar, bowtie-reminiscent without being an actual tie.

Since that specific brooch is unlikely to be languishing in your jewelry box, try swapping in any brooch with some heft to it. An interesting piece right at the neck will look cool and interesting. And if the button-down is a dealbreaker, skip the brooch altogether and try a long-sleeved tee instead. It should work with the laid-back vibe of the cuffed jeans.

Since both of those options involved button-downs, let’s look to Audi of Fashion for Nerds for some less formal options, shall we? Here, she’s chosen a graphic tee with an allover print, jeans, and cowgirl boots to pair with her menswear vest. The resulting outfit is fun, funky, and fabulously edgy.

Our first vest-skirt pairing! Audi unifies her top and bottom halves by utilizing that lovely, dark burgundy in her tee, tights, and boots. The hat and skirt echo each other, and the buttons on the skirt and vest create great parallels. This ensemble has some pretty specific pieces, but is still a great source of inspiration. If you were to recreate this outfit, I’d recommend including at least one textured piece (here, the tights), a shirt that can remain untucked, and garments that read more cute and fun than refined and formal. In my opinion, doing a vest and skirt together as a dressy work ensemble is tough, but a playful weekend version should be easier to create.

In Audi’s final look, she’s picked a long-sleeved tee, wide leg pants, and a lovely scarf. Of all five ensembles shown here, I’d say this one is the cleanest, most versatile, and easiest to emulate. The wide legs are balanced beautifully by the fitted vest, and the scarf makes a gorgeous flourish at the neckline. Any trouser or jean could sub for wide legs, and I recommend scrunching your sleeves just as Audi has for added interest.

Fitted vests are such fabulous pieces, but they can be a bit challenging to style. Hopefully these great outfits have sparked a few ideas that you can try with pieces from your own closet.

Top image via Thisisnext

Originally posted 2011-07-20 06:45:31.

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34 Responses to “Reader Request: How to Wear Vests”

  1. rosie posie

    Hi Sally. Another great post(as usual). I really love the way you can observe an outfit and break down the basic elements of the outfit so it’s easier for the rest of us to emulate if we like it.

    I have always loved the look of vests but I always have problems styling them. You see, my bust is considerably large and I don’t feel comfortable drawing attention to them & I think wearing a vest will accentuate the bust.

    (When I wear mine, the upper opening of the vest will gape & my boobs look like they’re popping out)
    Do you have any ideas on how to style a vest for busty gals?
    Or is it a style that I should avoid?

    • Sal

      Rosie, I do know that vests can be tough for women with larger busts … wear them open and they can add too much volume, button them and they pull. A vest with a larger/lower v-opening will help. It will define your waist without fighting your chest. Check out Kim K: Still pulling, still a bit snug, but also really cute. Mitigated by that high-neckline tank, too. Vests made from sweatshirt material or anything with more give will work better, too.

      Anyone else have suggestions for vests worn by women with larger busts?

    • Tiffany

      I would consider myself on the busty side, and I love wearing vests. I go with a bright solid colored tee for summer with a fairly high collar and a fitted vest and usually a nice pair of khakis for work. The fitted vest helps to accentuate the difference between your bust and your waist, giving you a nice narrow sillouette. I think this works because of the contrast with the vest, as menswear, and the womanly curves you are showing off!

      • Eleanorjane

        I’m not super busty, but fairly well endowed in the boob department and I love outfits that emphasis my hourglass shape. I don’t wear vests at the moment, but I’ve enjoyed them in the past for their waist narrowing, boob enhancing effect. Hmm… maybe I should hunt out a vest – I’m getting very into tunics at the mo, and a vest would be good to give them some shape…

        It is sometimes tricky to get one what fits chest and waist – often they’re more straight up and down. Maybe a bit of tailoring could help.

  2. SarahN

    I was *just* looking at the black vest in my closet wondering what on earth to wear it with. How about a printed blouse, wide belt and pencil skirt for a more work-appropriate look? I’ll try it when the heat breaks. Just thinking about wearing another layer makes me sweat.

  3. Carolyn

    This is like fate! I just posted a couple of days ago my desire to find a vest. These tips will be great once I can actually find one. Maybe next time some tips for hunting one down?

  4. Joceline

    What Kasmira said–I wear my menswear vests open (or closed sometimes) over flowy jersey dresses to give some waist definition or just an extra layer. I’ve also worn them over a tie neck blouse tucked into a high-waisted A-line skirt for work looks. And I was very inspired by this outfit of yours that you linked in the post yesterday–!


  5. Loren

    I love vests and will wear them over pretty much anything. I think the trick is to find the right style to suit you. And also make sure the length of the vest is flattering with the other things you are wearing. But I do love that fitted vest give you sort of an ‘instant hourglass’. That’s why I love blazers as well.

    For a night on the town they look cute over a tank top with shorts

    For work wear I put on skinny pants, heels and a v-neck shirt

    For a dinner party with friends I’ll wear one over a dress with cute flats.

  6. Sheila

    I’m large-busted (DD) and LOVE vests because they really hold everything in! I like to belt my vests and layer them with all kinds of looks. Some of my looks:

    – a casual denim vest:

    – nearly a week of vest (worn for work):

    – another denim vest, worn belted:

    – a long vintage suede vest:

    – my leather vest, belted:

    – a vest layered over a dress and belted:

    – my “Annie Hall” look:

  7. Stacy

    Thank you for showing all these lovely outfit ideas! I have a pullover argyle vest that I love but it always stumps me. I’m going to try it with a t-shirt like you’ve shown here. Thanks again!

  8. Deb

    I like reining in a voluminous boho peasanty blouse with a (non- buttoned) vest.
    I love vests – I think they simultaneously define a waist and obscure the tummy. I also like the contrast of wearing vest with a girly look. I would love some shopping recommendations. Thanks!

  9. Stacy

    I love vests! Here is a post from last winter where I am wearing a velveteen Tahari vest:

    I have had a tough time finding vests that don’t squish “the girls” too badly, so that is my problem with vests for me. I am trying to find a good pattern to make one that fits me better, and if that turns out I will have many more in my wardrobe. 🙂

  10. Diana

    My very favorite way to wear a vest is with a loose, flowy blouse or tunic. The vest very effectively reins in the extra volume of the blouse and I love the contrast between a menswear style waistcoat and a feminine, floral, chiffony blouse ideally with loose flowy sleeves.

  11. Maven

    I looooove vests but strangely don’t have many pictures of my vest outfits from my active Wardrobe Remix days. Here’s a recent one, pretty menswear-ish (but with a skirt), also not summer-appropriate:

    I also like to wear a fitted vest with something that has voluminous sleeves or neck ruffles/ties. It’s a great way to give definition to a top that’s otherwise too drapey or shapeless.

  12. Sonja

    I don’t wear many vests, but I like the look of a vest over a tanktop or a strapless tube top. And if it’s not one of those teeny tiny things, just a vest [over nothing ;-)] plus a wide, flowy skirt is also sexy and girly at the same time.

  13. lisa

    Thanks for including me in this post, Sal! Like one of the commenters said, you have a talent for breaking down the elements of an outfit. I don’t think I realized at the time that 2/3 of my vest outfits were basically the same outfit with some tweaks. But you’re spot on in your comments!

  14. Anat

    This is such a great, informative post, I have been on the lookout for some vests to play with for a while, and this just makes me want to find some even more!

    Thank you also to all the other ladies posting their vest-inspired outfits. This is quite a treasure trove for vest ideas, and will be earmarked for future use.

  15. Katy

    I’ve had a black vest for a couple years now – wore it a ton the first year and now it’s sat in my closet collecting dust. This is making me want to pull it out again and give it a whirl. And actually today I posted an outfit pic with a jean jacket I turned into a jean vest and it might be my new favorite accent. Vests can really help step-up an outfit – give it a little fun edge. – Katy

  16. joann, sidewalk chic

    What a great post. I am terrible at wearing vests, because I always feel like I have to be more formal (like with a suit or whatever). I do like Audi’s rendition with the graphic tees. Just awesome.

  17. Gracey at Fashion For Giants

    Amazingly, I was just thinking about this this morning. I love vests but never, ever know what to do with them. This post has got me thinking and given me a few ideas to go home and try. Thanks, Sal!

  18. Audi

    Ah, I was just looking at my vests this morning, and wishing it was warm enough to wear one over short sleeves. I love vests as a summer layer; if only summer would arrive…

  19. Mel

    Audi’s last pic (with the wide-leg trousers) is my favourite! I have trouble with fitted vests (I’m a 34C) so I tend to wear them open (or maybe just one button closed right under the bustline) with a crisp white blouse underneath, and usually with a pencil skirt or high-waist, wide-leg pants.

  20. Shannon

    Thanks so much for answering my question! I particularly like the idea of wearing it over a long-sleeved shirt that’s a little too casual normally for work but could be dressed up or a graphic t-shirt. I’ve definitely done the graphic-t and blazer look with jeans before, but a vest would be a different twist.